JIMMY SMITH & PHIL UPCHURCH
In his very first recordings, in the mid-50s, Jimmy Smith managed to both turn the Hammond B-3 organ into a bona fide jazz instrument and define its sound for the next 15 years. To this day, he continues to emphasize the B-3’s capacity for creating excitement, taking advantage of its electronically controlled attack to create skittering melody lines and using its electronically created sustain to punctuate them with keening cries from the upper register. Smith also introduced to jazz the organ trio that had developed in the African-American neighborhoods of Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia (near Smith’s hometown); its R & B-derived sound proved perfect for the earthy melodies of hard bop. His history and personality usually make Smith the focal point of any show he’s part of, but this week he’ll have to share the spotlight with special guest (and onetime Chicagoan) Phil Upchurch. Upchurch’s capacity to mix jazz and soul–making reasonable compromises in both idioms–eclipses even Smith’s, and in the 70s and 80s it made him relatively rich and certainly famous. Originally known for his work on electric bass in jazz-blues bands and commercial settings, Upchurch will likely leave that ax at home for this gig: Smith dances an awfully impressive soft-shoe on the organ’s pedals, and his solid walking bass lines obviate the need for a bassist. That means Upchurch can concentrate on the deeply soulful, deceptively uncomplicated guitar work–the tightly pinched, almost vocal wail–that landed him on hundreds of high-profile recording gigs, including megahits by Curtis Mayfield and George Benson. This pairing won’t re-create the superhuman partnership of Smith and the late Wes Montgomery (The Dynamic Duo, their first collaborative album declared), but it could easily become legendary in its own right. Friday and Saturday, 9 PM, Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland; 773-395-0066. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jimmy Smith photo by James Minchin.